You already know the bad guys: Lamar Smith wanted to censor the internet, and he did it after Chris Dodd spent thousands of dollars lobbying on behalf of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). In the interest of fighting piracy, ending pornography, and expanding an increasingly obsolete business model, the United States government and some of its closest allies have recently made it a point to test just how far citizens’ rights apply while online.
But there are a few of our leaders who see through the guise of protecting key grips and children, and know the irresponsible, internet-harming legislation for what it really is. The five politicians below are listed based on their reactions to SOPA, CISPA, PCIPA (HR1981), ACTA, and other famous legislation opposed by organizations like the EFF and Fight for the Future.
Opinions expressed (and the terrible page formatting) are my own and do not represent Test PAC or its membership.
District & State: Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District
Chance of re-election in 2012: Strong
Frequently referred to by some as “the next Ron Paul,” Justin Amash is a libertarian Republican who opposed SOPA and CISPA. What makes Amash truly unique is that he is the only Congressman who explains every one of his votes to his constituents, and he does it via his Facebook page. Earlier this year, Amash posted his 1000th Vote on the site, giving new meaning to the phrase “government transparency.”
Not only is Amash a forward-thinker and hero of the internet, he also says he admires the next politician on our list, Jared Polis.
District & State: Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District
Chance of re-election in 2012: Strong
Jared Polis is one of the few members of Congress who made his money not from working in politics, but from being a nerd. Polis started a website you’ve probably heard of: ProFlowers.com, which was not even his first major startup (he used to own an ISP and e-greetingcard site bluemountainarts.com).
With such a background in web startups, it’s no surprise that Polis was one of SOPA’s most vocal opponents, saying it would not only hurt new business, but “destroy the internet as we know it.”
Most impressively, he is even a self-described “nerd” and “gamer.” When SOPA and PIPA were making a big deal, the Congressman actually posted on the official League of Legends message board (now offline, so far as I can tell), calling for safer alternative legislation.
District & State: California’s 14th Congressional District (moving to the 18th)
Chance of re-election in 2012: Strong
Anna Eshoo represents much of Silicon Valley and is co-chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus, which serves to makes sure Congress brings in the nerds when deciding on the rights of internet denizens.
Eshoo’s most famous accomplishment for net freedom was in 2009, when she introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009, which, if it had passed, would have made net neutrality a legal requirement for ISPs.
Her best quality, though, was her reversing her stance on CISPA after the internet spoke out against it. CISPA had broad opposition from individual internet users, but gigantic corporations happened to love the bill. In fact, they love it to the tune of $318,000, which is the amount of money CISPA supporters donated to Eshoo. With a practical slap in the face, Eshoo took money from CISPA supporters like Google and Facebook, then withdrew her co-sponsorship of the bill and voted against it. She was one of only six members of Congress to end support for the bill after internet campaigns were launched against it.
District & State: California’s 49th Congressional District
Chance of re-election in 2012: Strong
He voted for CISPA, so why the attention? Issa (pronounced kind of like “eye sore” with a silent R) is a techy with an attitude. The former CEO of Directed Electronics declared himself as a defender of the internet on Reddit and quickly rose to fame on the site after doing a highly-successful IAMA, a “town hall” style of interview.
Since then, Issa has voiced his opinion, via Reddit or other online media, about the tech issues that matter most to him. Most recently, he joined Ron Wyden in the attempt to push for an online bill of rights, with the goal of creating a protection against legislation like SOPA and CISPA. The kicker? It was an idea actually proposed by the Reddit community, known to them as the “Free Internet Act,” or /r/fia. Today, anyone can log on to http://keepthewebopen.com/ and suggest changes to the bill.
Should we hold CISPA against him? Yes. But he can still do some good for us as we move forward.
District & State: Arizona’s 5th Congressional District (moving to the 6th)
Chance of re-election in 2012: Iffy
Although Congressman David Schweikert’s internet presence barely stretches past tweets about his dog, he has actively been representing the nerd community in Congress since he was elected in 2010. In an interview, Schweikert’s campaign manager told me that the Congressman is considered to be the biggest nerd on The Hill. For example, he showed me, the server which hosts the Congressman’s campaign website is a double-sized tower that the Congressman built himself from spare parts. During the interview, the discussion turned to Battlefield 3 twice (sorry, CoD players), and the Congressman even considered doing an AMA (or “ask me anything”) on Reddit. (He unfortunately seems to have turned down the opportunity.)
Besides being a vocal opponent of both SOPA and CISPA, Schweikert is facing a tough primary battle against Ben Quayle, who co-sponsored both bills and introduced the famous “last minute amendment” to CISPA that increased the number of ways the government could use your private information. With so few things separating the two freshman Congressmen, expect Schweikert to make net-freedom a priority issue to help squash a possible 2014 primary challenge from Quayle. The election is this August, let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Who you wanted to make the list but didn’t:
District & State: Texas’ 21st Congressional District
Chance of election in 2012: Not a Chance
Why she didn’t make the list: If selected for the list, Candace Duval would be the only politician on this list who is not a sitting member of Congress. There is one notable thing about her, though: she is challenging SOPA posterboy Lamar Smith in the November general election. Just as you would expect, one of the top issues on her campaign website is net freedom: “She strongly opposes legislation authored and supported by Rep. Lamar Smith such as SOPA, CISPA, and HB 1981 which seek to infringe on the civil liberties of law abiding Americans.”
That being said, her opposition to Smith is pretty much the only thing going for her. The former realtor is also a bit on the kooky side: according to her LinkedIn profile, she had the following to say about her personal psychic healer: “[she] has helped me overcome and complete my karmic endeavors here in this life and past lives. She has assisted me in clearing negative energies that has interfered with my integrity.” It should also be noted that the hopeful Congresswoman spelled psychic, “physic.”
Whatever the negative energy was that damaged her integrity, it’s definitely not as bad as that quote could be. I would say that the quote is so damning that it qualifies her to be her own biggest opponent, but her actual biggest opponent is neither herself nor Lamar Smith: it’s her sister, who started a blog dedicated to explaining why Candace is a “fraud.” The internet is going to collectively wince at the thwomping she is going to receive this November when she goes up against her pro-censorship opponent. If only we could find a decent candidate to face Smith in 2014…
Comments, disagreements, or suggestions for inclusion? Sound off in our sub-reddit!
Lamar Smith won re-election. I’m not happy about it and I’m not going to rehash the results – they are publicly available on the web and this is about moving forward, not staying stuck on one election.
Some of you have suggested that we keep working on unseating Lamar in the general election this fall. TestPAC is unlikely to do so. Why is that, might you ask? First off, the district is hugely conservative. The likelihood of a Democrat winning, especially against a very entrenched incumbent such as Mr. Smith, is highly unlikely. We had our best shot in the primary, but Mr. Smith won.
Secondly, Candace Duval isn’t a candidate we would care to endorse. More information is available on this thread. I’d also like to take the opportunity to remind everyone that Andy Posterick is our Treasurer and named on our documentation. We need to operate within the law or Andy and others will be liable. Further, this means that we need to be careful of who to associate with. I and many others of the membership do not believe that associating with a candidate who has alienated her family and regularly uses a psychic healer is the direction we want to go in at this point in time.
With that out of the way, what did we learn from facing off against Lamar Smith and what have we accomplished? To both questions I would say – a lot.
As detailed in this blog post, TestPAC has successfully put out a TV ad, a billboard, raised thousands of dollars and more. We’ve continued to garner media attention and now we need to figure out the best way to move forward and ascertain our future goals.
One thing that is necessary for us to move forward is to learn from the campaign we just took part in. There are several issues we had with the campaign which I believe are key and need to be addressed; they include our organization, the lack of speed in decision makings, communication between membership, officers and volunteers, understanding of on the ground circumstances and feasibility issues. On the bright side, we have raised awareness of internet issues, showed the possibilities of a new model of fundraising and began to successfully put together an organization. TestPAC sprang virtually out of nowhere and
In that light, here are several things for us to work on in order to improve going forward and to push our capacity for influence and action:
First off, before we move forward on another campaign we need to stop and think about what our mission is going to be. Our core is this- we are a PAC which is ran by our members. Members decide where we focus our energies. However, not only is membership not very strictly defined, we don’t have a core goal in mind. Personally, and let me stress that this is my opinion and mine alone, I think we should focus on internet defense and internet issues.
Sure, if something absolutely crazy happens elsewhere we can switch gears however our focus should be technology and internet issues/net freedom. We have branding there already, it is the core issue that brought the PAC together and it is something that we all care about. Agree or disagree? Great, please give us your thoughts on the subreddit.
Next, we need to better define our structure to allow for greater flexibility and faster decision makings. We need a way of getting membership feedback faster- a great way to do that is to enhance our committees. We put out a call for volunteers and got some responses, however during the midst of the campaign this project fell by the wayside to some extent.
Not so now, we need to reorganize. We are working on an organizational structure to propose to the members for alterations, comments and critiques. However it isn’t quite ready – we’ll try to have it out to the membership as soon as possible, stay tuned. In the meantime – throw out your own ideas and help move the process along or put your name down now to volunteer for a committee. We want to ensure each committee has creative idea oriented thinkers and also people with expertise in the necessary topics. We’ve been blessed with some great production people and minds so far and we don’t want to dilute that.
Additionally, there also needs to be a better way to define membership. Is it everyone who donates? Signing up for the website? What is membership and how do we retain committed people – we’re working on that and are looking for fun and interesting ways to keep people involved. Please don’t hesitate to add your own input!
In summary, the biggest things we are focusing on are:
- well defined mission
- organizational structure
- addressing membership
In order to do this we’ve got some ancillary tasks that need to get done. We also addressed a couple of ideas. Some people have mentioned a name change – not happening right now, the IRS paperwork required to make the change from TestPAC Please Ignore to just TestPAC has taken enough time and energy. Plus, re-branding everything would be detrimental. However on that note – the website will be moved over to the testpac.org domain name soon. Jeromie is working on that, please stay patient as he is swamped with work.
In addition to this we are looking to do an overhaul on some of the site and keep the standards and quality up. Message an officer or post in the subreddit to get involved with this effort. Further, we’re looking to better define our goals and put together a growth plan to ensure we stay on track.
If there was anything you learned from the campaign, if you have ideas of what to do next or you want to get more involved please post to the subreddit and keep discussion going.
The officers will continue to move forward with our current ideas and try to get drafts of them out to the members for perusal soon, however at its heart, TestPAC is about crowd sourcing. We welcome new ideas – many of them may be better than the ones we brainstormed. Lets continue to work together in order to create a better future.
Tl;dr- Organizing and focusing in – learning from the campaign and from what we accomplished
Before you read any more – GO VOTE!
I want to take this opportunity to once again say thank you to everybody who has worked on the campaign, donated, supported, or otherwise been involved in TestPAC. The support we have received has been spectacular and the excitement and buzz around this campaign has allowed us to achieve things I never thought was possible.
Over a few short months TestPAC has grown from a nonexistent organization to a genuine player in a congressional primary campaign.
A quick list of some of our accomplishments over the course of the primary:
- In conjunction with other Reddit-based groups, raised over $35,000 dollars for the primary campaign
- Ran an anti-Lamar Smith billboard
- Sent out a direct mailer to 8,000 Texas voters
- Pulled off a hugely successful moneybomb with your help!
- Partnered with a variety of other PACs to help #unseatlamar
- Handed out fliers and spoke to voters on the ground
- Created and ran a spectacular TV Ad throughout Lamar’s District
- Attained repeated media exposure on a variety of platforms
Our first campaign has raised awareness of internet issues, may unseat a sitting congressman in a supposedly safe district, and has helped to awaken the sleeping giant of online political activism. Even so, there is a long ways to go in order to become a stable political force, however the gains from this election have been spectacular. You can look for further organization and a new set of objectives for the membership to vote on following this election.
I should also note that Richard Morgan will be doing a follow up AMA on Reddit per our request. Look for him to do it tomorrow or in a couple of days depending on how things fall out. If the time ends up changing I’ll update it here.
Finally, if you have any ideas on what you would like to see us focus on next, please go put up ideas in the subreddit!
Thank you, and don’t forget to vote!
Over the course of the past month, Test PAC officers, volunteers and members have come together to achieve an incredible amount of work in unprecedented ways. Through the generous donations of average Americans from across the country, Test PAC was successfully able to generate enough funding for a comprehensive campaign against Lamar Smith in Texas’ 21st district.
First, we launched a billboard on San Antonio’s I-10, showing Smith that while he may dismiss those who favor a free and open Internet as the “vocal minority”, our voice would be heard loud and clear. As the month has progressed, we have been in contact with a number of other organizations looking to oust Smith and put an end to his reckless political agenda.
Today, we are proud to announce two new campaigns rolling out this week.
First, Test PAC has confirmed that our direct mailer will be hitting the mailboxes of 8,000 Republican voters on Thursday, May 24th. The mailers were produced using crowd-sourced ideas. Constructive discussion and debate helped hone our message and make sure our point was concise. The direct mailer, which we were able to fund after exceeding our fundraising goal of $5,000 , ended up costing just under $4,000.
In addition to the direct mailer, Test PAC has also purchased a round of television ads which are set to air on three different stations in Texas’ 21st. The breakdown of the airing times is listed below:
Jimmy Kimmel – M-F 1 time per show May 21-25
Indianapolis 500 – Sun May 27th twice
Good Morning S.A. (4:30am-5am) – M-F 3 times total
Leno – Thur 5/24 once, Fri. 5/25 twice (Colin Powell is guest on Friday)
Fallon – Tues. 5/22 once, Thur 5/24 once (Anderson Cooper is guest on Tuesday)
Meet the Press – Sunday 5/27 twice
Letterman – Wed 5/23 twice, Thur 5/24 twice (Bill O’Reilly is guest on Wednesday)
Face the Nation – Sun May 27th once
Prior to funding the television spots, Test PAC members came together to painstakingly produce an advertisement targeting Lamar Smith. As a result, Test PAC was able to create a professional quality commercial with zero production costs(special thanks to Michael Warren, Eddie Belaval, Ian Munsel, and Richard Green). The broadcasting of the spots came in at just over $10,000.
I’ve included the cost of each campaign to emphasize the fact that Test PAC is dedicated to ensuring that every dollar you donate is a dollar you can trust to make a difference. It is with this in mind that Test PAC is run on an entirely volunteer basis, meaning that Test PAC has a 0% overhead. It inspires us to see individual donations of $5, $10, and $20, and as a result we make it our point to utilize each donation in the most efficient manner possible.
As we head into the last lap of the Republican primaries, we encourage each and every one of you to do your part. Voters in Texas’ 2st: end the reign of Lamar Smith by voting in the Republican primary elections. Americans across the country: write your congressmen and women, educate yourselves on legislation threatening our freedoms in the digital age, donate to the cause, and help raise awareness of our current political state of affairs.
The power and innovation of our technological community has proven thus far to be a powerful adversary to the legislative ignorance in Washington. Let’s make sure our concerns further translate into positive action.
Let’s unseat Lamar.
Test PAC Chairman
First of all, 5k On 5 May was amazing. We raised more than double our goal and it is because of all of you that this was possible. Thank you for voicing your political opinion and working with TestPAC to #unseatlamar.
Secondly, with all the extra money we’ve put together a direct mailer and after having several versions critiqued and improved on reddit the final product is now here and arriving in homes all across Texas’ 21st Congressional District. Here is that mailer.
Third, the ad buy is here! Look for TestPAC’s Ad to be playing in Texas in the run up to the election as we’ve been able to do a significant ad buy thanks to the great fundraising work our constituency has put in.
Finally, I just want to say a quick thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to help push forward with the campaign to take down Lamar Smith! The final stages are here and as we count down towards election day keep on spreading the word, making sure your friends and family vote and vote yourself! Thank you to everyone who has helped TestPAC get to this point.
TestPAC Committee Member
- Five politicians who can save the internet (6/18/2012)
- Recap, Reorganization and Moving Forward (6/5/2012)
- Election Day is Here: Vote now to Unseat Lamar Smith (5/29/2012)
- Test PAC Launches TV, Direct Mail Campaigns (5/22/2012)
- A Quick Update: Fundraising, Direct Mail and Tv Ads (5/21/2012)
- testPAC’s SOPA Canvassing Update (5/10/2012)
- 5K on 5May (5/5/2012)
- AT&T Vice President: We Can Solve Cybersecurity Ourselves (4/20/2012)
- Unemployment Tips for Lamar Smith (4/17/2012)
- Test PAC Billboard Choice Explained (4/3/2012)